For many years I was a publicist at one of the world's largest self-help publishers, representing dozens of authors, many of whom were regurlarly on the national best seller lists and had pretty high demands. What many people find surprising, however, is that it was the less experienced authors that were more difficult to work with. Not because they weren't pleasant (most were), but because they didn't understand how best to utilize my role and my time. So here are some tips on how best to work with your in-house publicist, who you should consider a free and incredibly valuable resource.
First, do everyone a favor and don’t let your first question be: “How do I get on Oprah?” As much as we all laugh at the quintessential first-time author question, it really is an indication of an author’s unrealistic expectations. Believe me, EVERYONE wants you to be on Oprah so you don’t even need to ask. But watch the show, see who her guests are these days and see if you meet the standard. Maybe you do, or maybe you need to keep working on your media platform first before Oprah’s producers will take notice.
Instead, start a conversation with your publicist by telling her (sometimes him) all the wonderful things YOU have planned and what YOU are going to do to get your book out there, then ask what her vision is for your book. Again, unless you are an A-list author at your publishing house, meaning you are responsible for a large percentage of sales, consider your in-house publicist as a support function, but remember she is also supporting many, many other authors. With the current state of publishing, in-house publicists are handling more work with less resources, much like the media they are trying to reach, so the demands on their time are great. Do your best to provide them with everything they need, and in a timely manner. Check in with her just enough, but not too much. Publicists love all of their authors (wink, wink), but the ones that call and email hourly are not always the ones you feel inclined to help more.
Here are some ways you can help: if you see a breaking news story that you would be a great resource for, send your publicist a short paragraph explaining why you are the perfect expert on the topic and ask if she can send it on to the media you want to reach. The easier you make it for her to do her job, the more she can do for you.
Did you get interviewed on a newsworthy topic and forget to tell your publicist? That’s a no, no! There’s nothing worse than finding out through Google alerts that your author was on CNN talking about the topic you have been pitching all week! Let her know in advance if you have some media lined up, so she can support you by further promoting the appearance and letting all relevant parties know (marketing, sales, other media, etc.).
Lastly, listen to your publicist. If they have experience, they know how best to position you and your book. If you strongly disagree with what they are saying, talk about it and try to come to an agreement but don’t just tell them you know best and disregard their expertise. They are there to help you, and want to sell your book – be kind.
If you are looking for more focused attention and someone who will spend a lot more time working on only your book, that's where an independent publcist comes in. While I very much appreciate the years of experience and skills I attained as an in-house publicist, I started my own company because I wanted to be able to work more closely with authors, and really give them more individual attention so we could achieve greater things. It's important to know how to work with both an in-house publicist and independent publicist in order to get the best results possible.
Carina Sammartino is President and Founder of Parallel 33 Public Relations & Literary Services. Find her at www.parallel33pr.com.
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